“Monks, all is burning. And what is the all that is burning?
“The eye is burning, forms are burning…
“The ear is burning, sounds are burning…
“The nose is burning, odours are burning…
“The tongue is burning, flavours are burning…
“The body is burning, tangibles are burning…
“The mind is burning, ideas are burning…
Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, with the fire of hate, with the fire of delusion. I say [they are] burning with birth, aging and death, with sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.”
So begins the Buddha’s ‘Fire Sermon‘, one of the three so-called Cardinal Discourses of the Buddha, which Luangpor read just last night during the Friday evening public sitting. Each Friday during this rains retreat he is reading from the Pali Canon. Last week it was the Anatta-lakkhana Sutta – the Discourse on Not-self, and before that it was the First Sermon. If you want to hear some real Dhamma – that is, words from the Buddha himself – please do come along.
A little over three weeks ago, Luangpor and Ajahn Manapo joined a gathering of Thai monks at Wat Buddhapadipa – the large Thai temple in Wimbledon, London. They were there to pay their respects and ask forgiveness of the Abbot, who, at 92 years old, is the most senior Theravada monk in the country. Following that, all of the remaining monks did the same for Luangpor, who was the second-most senior monk present; and so the process was repeated for several other elder monks.
The asking of forgiveness is an important and long-standing tradition that helps to promote communal harmony, respect, and humility – all essential ingredients on the Buddha’s path to Enlightenment.
On the following Wednesday, Luangpor travelled to the Oxford Buddhist Vihara for the second TBSUK meeting of the year. Theravada monks from a number of Thai, Sri Lankan and Burmese monasteries throughout the UK joined the event to discuss certain important issues, one of which was the relationship with other religions – particularly Islam. Concern was also raised by some of the Burmese in attendance about misrepresentation in the media of certain facts relating to the problems in western Burma.
The TBSUK meeting in Oxford
On the afternoon of Saturday 11th, nine intrepid retreatants descended on Bhavana Dhamma for the six-day summer retreat. Ajahn Manapo led them through it, giving regular guidance and instruction as well as a series of evening Dhamma talks focused on cultivating the Four Protections: Mindfulness of the Buddha; Loving-Kindness; Contemplation of the Body; and Mindfulness of Death.
They were an excellent group and, as far as we know, managed to restrain themselves when doing walking meditation next to the blackberry bushes. Many thanks to Chamila, Anne and the various people who so kindly offered food and helped to run the retreat.
Judging by the number of applications, the popularity of the retreats seems to be increasing; however, the size of the place is not, and we’re unhappy about having to put so many people on the waiting list. Various possible solutions have presented themselves: from extending the shrine room, to converting the garage, to acquiring a bit more land. We will have to see…
The 6-Day retreat at Bhavana Dhamma
On the following Monday, the 13th, Ajahn Amaro and a group of monks from Amaravati came to pay their respects to Luangpor. After spending some time in the shrine room and having a look around the grounds, they walked over to Bhavana Dhamma, where the retreat was in progress.
On Saturday 18th Luangpor made another long journey: this time northward, to a recently established Thai temple just outside Manchester. He was there to participate in the annual meeting of the Council of Thai Buddhist Monks, the purpose of which is to discuss the propagation of Dhamma abroad (that is, outside of Thailand). As part of the event Luangpor gave a short presentation to the monks, during which he focussed on three things in particular:
Firstly, he said that from his experience with Angulimala and TBSUK he has realised the importance of being united, and of how it enables us to accomplish more.
Secondly, he reminded the monks about the importance of becoming integrated into the country in which they are living, and to make efforts to learn its language and customs.
And thirdly, he asked the monks to encourage the Buddhist lay-community in their observation of the precepts – particularly the fifth. Regarding that fifth precept (abstaining from using alcohol and non-medicinal drugs), he spoke of his experience of working in the prisons, where he frequently observes the harm and devastation wrought by these substances. He even suggested that the Theravada Sangha might lead some kind of campaign to get people to take this fifth precept more seriously.
Luangpor at the Council of Thai Buddhist Monks meeting
Apart from all of that, we are one month into the Vassa. The back porch is almost, almost finished. After that Andy the builder will hopefully be moving on to Luangpor’s kuti, which desperately needs underpinning (it’s subsiding) and insulating (it’s freezing). And next weekend we’ll be hosting the penultimate Angulimala workshop of the year.
And finally, if you’re shopping on Amazon, you might like to try Amazon Smile and consider selecting the Forest Hermitage Trust as your chosen charity.